|© Ulrik Fallström|
Prof Hannes Lohi's research team at the University of Helsinki has already identified the first epilepsy gene for a late-onset symptomatic epilepsy in Miniature Wirehired Dachshunds (known as Lafora's) and last year, as reported here last July, found a gene associated with a transient idiopathic epilepsy in Lagotto Romagnolos.
Now, in a paper published yesterday in PLoS ONE, the team reveals that it may be close to finding a gene for idiopathic epilepsy in Belgian Shepherd Dogs, a condition that affects up on one in 5 of the breed.
Specifically, the Finnish researchers (working in collaboration with Danish, Swedish and American researchers in an EU-funded project ) have identified a small region on chromosone 37 which, if homozygous (ie if a dog inherits two identical copies of it - one from each parent) increases the chance of epilepsy seven-fold.
It's good news for Belgian Shepherd Dogs... and also good news for other dog breeds as it's thought that the discovery could help in the research of epilepsy in other breeds, too. The prevalence of epilepsy in purebred dogs is estimated to range from 0.5% to 1%. However, in some breeds there is a strong suspicion of an underlying genetic factor as there is an accumulation of epileptic individuals within families with an incidence as high as 20%.
There is more work to be done before a DNA test is available, but given the team's previous record this is hopefully just a question of time.